After a program-defining win against UArizona in week three, the Lumberjacks looked to build a winning streak at the end of their three-game road trip that began against South Dakota on Sep. 11. In a hard-fought defensive showdown, NAU seemed to be in a prime position to come away with a win in Greeley, Colorado for the first time since 2012. However, with the score tied at 10 with 1:57 remaining, a 33-yard missed field goal from graduate kicker Luis Agular killed NAU’s chances to win. A quick overtime touchdown followed by a fourth and one stop by Northern Colorado gave the Bears their second win of the season.
“[Our] defense played extremely well,” head coach Chris Ball said. “Offense is … we gotta eliminate some of the mistakes and be more consistent.”
Despite the loss, NAU gave up the least amount of points in a game this season with Northern Colorado only hanging 17 on the scoreboard and 10 during regulation. The offense still needs some retooling, however.
After coming off the bench in the win over UArizona, freshman quarterback RJ Martinez made his first career college start. Martinez completed 21 of 37 passes for 208 yards and was the only quarterback to take snaps under center, a first for NAU this season.
While NAU only managed to score 10 points, the second least in a game this season, the offense did seem to outplay the offensive attack the Bears brought forward. Martinez threw for more passing yards than UNC graduate quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, who had 199 in the air. The run game was also strong for the Lumberjacks, which outran the Bears with 149 net yards compared to 55. Freshman running back Draycen Hall finally had the breakout game people have waited for, rushing for a game high 76 yards on 14 carries. Freshman running back Kevin Daniels, NAU’s leading rusher this season, was out of the game and did not make the trip.
Moving forward to this week’s game against the Idaho State Bengals, injuries are a major factor with key players getting hurt.
In the second quarter against UNC, graduate wide receiver Stacy Chukwumezie sustained what looked like a harsh injury to his left leg on an awkward tackle. Chukwumezie was NAU’s leading passing target with 213 receiving yards. While no official information is public regarding his status, Chukwumezie took to Twitter on Tuesday night to share some insight on his injury, and it seems he will be out for a decent amount of time.
As mentioned previously, Daniels did not make the trip to Greeley despite a career performance against UArizona. Once again, no official information is available, but it would be a shock if he was unavailable again on Saturday. Daniels appeared for a post-game press conference after the UArizona game and showed no signs of injury.
Another lingering injury is that of graduate quarterback Keondre Wudtee. He sustained an ankle injury early in the season opener against Sam Houston State and hasn’t played since then. Even if he is healthy, Wudtee’s status is unknown, especially with Martinez having been NAU’s choice at quarterback for the last seven quarters.
NAU will come back to Flagstaff to play its first home game in exactly one month against Idaho State (0-3, 0-1 Big Sky), which has yet to win a game this season. As the only Big Sky team without a win, the Bengals could really shake up the standings in the early part of the season.
The Lumberjacks and the Bengals last played on Sept. 29, 2018, in Pocatello, Idaho, where the Bengals won their first game over NAU, 56-42. This loss snapped NAU’s 10-game winning streak over Idaho State that began in 2004.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., NAU will look to begin a new winning streak and earn its first Big Sky victory to celebrate Family Weekend in the Walkup Skydome. Fans can watch the game on ESPN+ or listen on the Lumberjack Radio Network. This game will be NAU’s last for two weeks, as the team heads into a bye week before returning to play Southern Utah on Oct. 16 for Homecoming Weekend.